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Position Grades for Michigan’s third consecutive Big Ten Championship

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Wolverines got it done in a shutout.

2023 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines are officially back-to-back-to-back Big Ten champions after beating Iowa by a final score of 26-0. All season, the Wolverines have preached “being where their feet are,” so for an Iowa team hoping to be overlooked, this was bad news.

In head coach Jim Harbaugh’s first game back, Michigan’s offense made a concerted effort to play patiently, protect the football, and possess it for as long as possible. The Wolverines struggled to string together anything sustainable, but did just enough to overwhelm this overmatched Iowa defense.

Defensively, Michigan smothered this inept Iowa offense. It was a David vs. Goliath matchup on paper, and Goliath pummeled the little rock slingers. Quarterback Deacon Hill was under relentless duress and without a consistent run game for support, the Hawkeyes were forced into turnover after turnover, and punt after punt.

Saturday wasn’t an overwhelming statement, but it was a resounding win from a team heading to its third consecutive College Football Playoff.

Let’s hand out some grades.

Quarterbacks: B-

J.J. McCarthy was 22-for-30 for 147 yards, but averaged a putrid 4.7 yards per attempt. McCarthy was far from perfect, but outside of duress, the junior signal caller was decisive and did not turn the football over. Sometimes winning football is 300 yards and four touchdowns, and sometimes it is 147 yards and zero turnovers.

Running backs: C+

Blake Corum tied Michigan’s all-time rushing touchdowns record with 55 career touchdowns, but besides that, was largely ineffective on the ground. Running back 1B Donovan Edwards averaged 7.0 yards a carry, but it was just enough to keep Iowa’s elite defense on its toes.

Wide receivers: B

Praise God for Cornelius Johnson! Besides C.J., every other wide receiver combined for 19 yards. NINETEEN. It wasn’t pretty, but this position group had very little time to shine when the quarterback was under pressure in obvious passing situations. However, when a catch was needed in this game, Johnson was repeatedly McCarthy’s favorite target.

Tight ends: D

This was perhaps the worst game for the tight ends this season. Blocks were missed, passes were dropped and everything for this offense unfolded from the inside out. Colston Loveland and A.J. Barner were both uncharacteristically unreliable in both facets of the offense and it greatly hindered the potential of this unit.

Offensive line: D-

Remember when Kevin McCallister finds his brother Buzz’s treasure trove and sees the picture of Buzz’s girlfriend in Home Alone, this offensive line performance could be summed up by Kevin in one word: “WOOF.”

Right tackle Trente Jones was frequently tagged with penalties and struggled against improvised plays with his quarterback, and left tackle LaDarius Henderson looked like he was playing on skates against speed rushes. It wasn’t an inspiring performance from Michigan’s front five, but the front five did deliver a strong performance inside the 10-yard line.

Defensive line: A

Iowa’s offense presented very little opposition, and Michigan’s front took advantage. Between several lines of destruction, the Wolverines dominated the line of scrimmage and limited the Hawkeyes to 1.5 yards per carry. However, it wasn’t just due to the defensive line.

Linebackers: A

Junior Colson, Michael Barrett and Ernest Hausmann were relentless in their pursuit of ball carriers and smothering in pass coverage. This unit continues to impress, and this performance was a second exclamation point following last weekend.

Defensive backs: A

Iowa averaged 3.8 yards per reception and only threw for 120 yards against Michigan. This unit was suffocating, smothering and never truly tested. Even without All-American hopeful Will Johnson, this unit sat back and reacted to what was in front of them.

Special Teams: A+

Semaj Morgan made his debut as a punt returner and immediately made his mark with an 87-yard return, setting up Michigan’s first touchdown of the game. Punter Tommy Doman averaged fewer yards per punt (42.3 to 50.4), but put more punts inside the 20-yard line than his counterpart — the Big Ten Punter of the Year. Lastly, kicker James Turner made 4-of-4 field goals and scored 14 points. Michigan was expected to win the defensive battle, but this special teams victory locked it in 26-0 and propelled Michigan to its third-straight CFP.